/ Technology

Have you had problems with smart appliances?

We’re looking into smart appliances and whether they’re worth the extra money compared with standard domestic products. Do you have an experience to share?

Appliances, especially large white goods such as fridge freezers, dishwashers and washing machines, are considered to be standard products that you use in your home.

But ‘smart’ appliances are growing in popularity; domestic products with internet connectivity that can be controlled remotely, typically through an app on your mobile device.

See all our kitchen appliance reviews

These connected appliances cost more than their average non-smart equivalent due to the added tech perks.

But are these perks worth shelling out more for?

Convenient benefits

Smart appliances do have the benefit of allowing you to more conveniently use and communicate with your product.

For example, you can start a wash cycle through the app from your bed on a Sunday morning or check the contents of your fridge while you’re shopping.

However, as with all products, there can be problems – faults with the product itself or its smart functionality failing aren’t exactly unheard of.

Share your experiences with us

We want to know whether you’ve had any issues with your smart appliances.

It may have been an issue getting it repaired due to the smart element, or if you’ve struggled to make it work with its accompanying app.  

If you don’t own a smart appliance, we’d also like to find out your thoughts on these products – would you consider buying one?

Have you ever had a problem with a smart appliance? Is the connected tech worth the extra cash? Let us know in the comments.

Comments
Kevin says:
26 March 2020

Since I have eyes, a reasonable memory, and can read, write and count, I see no point in paying a premium for a white elephant which will be obsolete as soon as the maker decides it’s not in their interest to support the device by fixing the numerous security bugs inevitable in a ‘smart’ device. I also doubt the ability of any organisation to properly secure the private data they will be collecting from said device.

However, I can see a limited use for some of this technology in assisted living etc. I’d like to see the development of management systems which allow the use of smart equipment in a closed localised environment, without the data being punted into the cloud for commercial exploitation.

What always amazes me with this sort of discussion is that nobody seems to have any really essential uses for the smart technology. Being able “to start a wash cycle from your bed on a Sunday morning” is hardly worth paying extra for. You would still have to have loaded the machine and put in the detergent, softener, etc and eventually you would have to get up to unload it and hang the washing out and do the ironing. Smart functionality doesn’t do any of the real work.

I’ve noticed that our dishwasher already has a delay program [the washing machine might too but I haven’t looked for that] which is purely mechanical and perfectly adequate if required.

Is a washing machine program delay function really the best example of a useful domestic aid? Talk about a solution looking for a problem. It would be interesting to know what else people can come up with.

I agree with Kevin about smart technology being employed to assist people who would otherwise need human help so I should like to see the effort put into that sort of development – provided people can get their heads and hands round the gadgetry involved. Keeping things simple might be more useful in such situations.

Smart remote doorbell response technology is the only thing I can see much merit in at the moment but even that has its limitations.

I don’t like the idea of our lives becoming subordinated to the intervention of mobile and other devices – which are already becoming far too familiar and know too much about us. They are starting to behave like they’re a part of the family; I recognise that some people like that, of course.

“Ward, John! – to the telescreen now!” see-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSIKBliboIo

In other Conversations we have had discussion about smart TVs losing their apps after a couple of years. Much has been said about designed obsolescence of products, but this is built into smart products.

Which? has warned us about security problems with numerous smart products.

As has been said above, smart products can be useful to help people retain independence, for reasons of age or disability, but that does not mean that we all need them.

We need Which? to fight to improve sustainability of household goods rather than promote short-lived smart products.

My answer to the question about whether I have had any problems with smart products is no, because I avoid them.

Fair shout @wavechange, and certainly not disagreeing on the sustainability front. Some of the context here is that we’re looking to explore less whether or not one should purchase a smart device, but more what happens should the device fail and one attempts to get it repaired or replaced. We certainly know about the piles of electronic waste already, so we’re keen to explore where the need is in this area to prevent things from becoming prematurely unusable due to the additional smart functionality.

Certainly could also be that there are many like you who avoid it, and we’d be keen to hear those stories as well.

Other than a “smart” TV which now has limited functionality – and was compromised in other ways – we have avoided such technology [if that is an appropriate description for it!] so cannot give you any examples of particular problems.

With regards to the TV, it does not communicate with the router [and the router is hard-wired to the PC and close to the master socket so cannot be repositioned] and as a result the electronic programme guide function is almost useless and impossible to update if channels change. We can work around it in our own smart way, of course, but it doesn’t do what we were promised.

Thanks for replying, Jon. If Which? were to do a survey I’m sure that it would be easy to demonstrate that smart products have a significantly shorter working like before they are replaced.

We also avoid products that need to be controlled by the internet or smartphone.

Hive was the first internet controlled device we obtained that highlighted how useless it could be when the internet was down. The central heating can now be controlled manually but it couldn’t when we first had it.

All products should be able to be operated manually if we don’t want them to end up prematurely in an electronic waste mountain.

Smart meters have to be the biggest waste of resources as they will fail and need replacing then the technology will soon become out-of-date.

I agree about smart meters. I inherited smart meters with the house and when I changed energy supplier they had to be replaced. At some time I may be able to take advantage of buying energy at certain times when it is cheaper but that has not happened yet. Yes it’s nice to keep a check on what energy I’m using but I don’t think that justifies the roll out of smart meters.

I have a complicated seven day programmer for my heating and an equally complicated seven day programmable room thermostat. My house is well insulated, so unless it’s cold I turn on the heating when I get up and turn it off before I go out or go to bed – simply by adjusting the room thermostat. If it’s very cold I leave the heating on low overnight.

John – you know you can get a wi-fi adapter for your TV don’t you – quite cheaply? I fitted a load of these in the past for friends to Sky boxes. They have RJ45 and USB connections, the former to give network to the TV and the latter to power it at the TV and programme it with the WiFi credentials on a PC.

Yes, thank you Roger. I just can’t be bothered right now. Our TV requirements are quite modest and we can get what we want out of the box. It is ridiculous, though, that people have to buy yet another gadget just to get what they’ve already paid for.

I’ve actually had an experience which fits in here. I made the move to smart bulbs when having to replace some old CF bulbs that had reached the end of their (nine-year) life, so opted to go with some WiFi-enabled lights.

One of these lights is consistently uncontrollable: it turns on of its own accord at random times, shows only as “offline” in the app, and basically is unusable for any given interval. Given this situation happened within 14 days of purchase, it was easy and well within right to exchange it for a new one. However this was not without its own hassle:

  • Online returns weren’t possible, so had to phone up and wait 20 minutes on hold
  • The replacement bulb could only be sent by post, so I had to wait 3-5 business days in the dark
  • It’s a lot of work for a lightbulb, and for the convenience of being able to save the five-foot walk to a lightswitch. I don’t regret the decision of switching to the smart bulbs, more so how much effort it took to make it right.

We have a couple of controllable multi-coloured lightbulbs in a floor lamp and table lamp.

One is controlled by a fairly useless remote control that only works a couple of feet away so we have to get up to operate it.

The other is controlled by Hive – the start time has to be altered about once a week and the end time is around midnight. I don’t think it would work if the internet was down.

If either of these stop working it would be no great loss but neither of them are hassle-free.

Kevin says:
27 March 2020

As with using computers for extended periods, will people need to take ‘smart device breaks’, where they get up and move around every 30 minutes (carefully ignoring any of their smart electrical devices to avoid the temptation of manual interaction) to keep their circulation moving?

My local bus service is sporadic and rarely keeps to the timetable. It would be useful to have the buses reporting live GPS so that people could check before waiting 30 minutes at a bus stop. Since all the buses currently offer WiFi this would be trivial to implement. That’s the kind of ‘smart’ technology that’s actually useful, yet we fixate on novelties with built-in obsolescence at the whim of corporate bean counters.

Many buses in Norfolk are transmitting via GPS and live updates are available on a smartphone. Since bus punctuality is generally very good I have never had to use the system but many younger passengers do as a matter of course.

I sometimes speculate that the cost of implementing all the technological and digital “improvements” and processes would probably exceed the cost of employing a butler who could attend to all life’s irksome activities [like answering the doorbell, issuing a weather report or cricket score, and switching on the lights] as well as pouring the drinks. It would also ensure I was wearing the right tie every day as well.

It seems that we have reached the point where we can manufacture superb products because the hardware has reached a peak of performance but the software on which it relies for essential functions is unsatisfactory and prone to faults and failures.

In our area new trains were delivered very late and have encountered all sorts of operational problems since introduction because of software faults. In some cases these have been serious and potentially very hazardous as the software did not communicate properly with signalling and level crossing barriers which opened when they should have been closed to road traffic.

I took the plunge for a lot of light and power socket automation when I rewired the house. I have Jinvoo switch plates in many places allowing (but not enforcing) operation from an Android phone. Scenarios can be arranged with timed operation (on at 7:00 etc) – or linked to sunrise and sunset . Also easy to do macros – “All lights on” – one press and the house floods with light. Not as secure as a hub-driven system granted, but I’m more than happy with it.

Does that mean that someone in the house could turn all the lights off at a stroke? I’m not sure about that from a safety viewpoint. Many modern houses have en suite bathrooms and family bathrooms without natural light.

Kevin says:
27 March 2020

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That…

Why can’t anyone manufacture curtain controllers that close at dusk and open at a set time in the morning when you normally get up?

They either operate on timer or dusk to dawn. Who wants bedroom curtains that open at dawn in the summer? Ours work on a timer so you have to keep changing the closing time every week or so.

There are some now that work with a smartphone app, but the app could soon be out-of-date rendering the product useless.

Does that mean that someone in the house could turn all the lights off at a stroke?

Only if such a macro were written and assigned to one button. I’ve done an “all on” but not an “all off”.

I have some PIR circuits on the outside of the house. I’ve got a means to override and isolate them to give me “on” and “off” – used for different things (don’t want spurious triggering when imaging the night sky, and occasionally want to turn them on regardless of activity).

Why can’t anyone manufacture curtain controllers that close at dusk and open at a set time in the morning when you normally get up?

Jinvoo ones could be programmed to do this.

I built one of those in the early ’90s. A small servo acted on ambient light from outside closed the curtains and a timer opened them again in the morning. You could do the same with a Pi.

Phil says:
28 March 2020

Well they did! I’ve got a couple but they weren’t very good, the drive shafts broke quite quickly even with small curtains. I got around the problem by buying some 12 V motor/gearboxes from eBay and piggy-backing them onto the original motors.

Amazon sell some which are more robust and better made, quieter and faster, but they have to be worked manually, with a timer or with a plug in remote control device.

Phil says:
27 March 2020

“Smart” appliances are increasing being used as tools for domestic abuse.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-tech-women/smart-devices-a-new-tool-for-domestic-abuse-idUSKCN1LE297

I’ve also read of a woman whose estranged husband was controlling her central heating, turning it on full during a heat wave and off when it got cold, via the internet even though he was in another country.